Earth Day Habits, All Year

Recently, while standing in the line-up at the grocery store, I overheard the following interchange between the customer and the sales clerk:

- "Do you have your shopping bags?"

- "Bags? Ohhhh, I forgot them in the car."

This woman had good intentions - her reusable shopping bags were one step closer to being used. However, she had not yet made the transition from a intention to a habit.

When you stop at a Starbucks or Tim Hortons, do you remember to bring in and hand over your travel-java mug? If you're staying in-situ to imbibe, are you saying, "For here!" so you can be given a ceramic mug instead?

From shopping bags to travel mugs. From reducing to reusing. A large part of going green has to do with building and reinforcing these resourceful habits.

There is a forest-full of ideas available that help you incorporate the 3 Rs into your daily life.

To effect change, remember awareness, knowledge and practice. The woman in the first example had the knowledge part; she was lacking awareness (I'm going into the store, so I need to bring my bags with me) and practice (repeated action of bringing the bags into the store).

Recognize that you wish to change your actions and then repeat the new behaviour until it requires no effort to remember. In other words, it becomes a no-brainer - you don't have to think about it; you just do.

In the late eighties, when the green movement was beginning to grow, my friend gave me an aptly-coloured recyclable shopping bag. In the beginning, I'd forget more often than I'd remember; gradually the habit took root.

Stress can get in the way of your habits. You forget to do and practice the things you want to do and practice. Instead, you find your focus is misdirected and your ill-stress-related health may be taking a front row seat, clamouring for attention that could be otherwise put to good use, such as cultivating daily environmental habits.

Earth Day is a good day to turn over a new leaf, learn some stress techniques and in the process, help the earth. You feel better, so you'll do better - emotionally, mentally, physically and environmentally!

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6 Replies to “Earth Day Habits, All Year”

  1. We have to consciously repeat the action until performing the action becomes automatic.


    We have to follow through on our intentions. Otherwise what will we accomplish?

  2. Marianna, I inevitably carry a shopping bag. In Pune plastic bags have been banned and many people are now forced to carry shopping bags, which I think is a good thing to happen. I rarely go shopping as most of the stuff I need come to the door via push cart vendors or the local grocer, so I am not a great polluter! The thrust of your post on habit forming however is very valid and I hope that it gets the audience it deserves.

  3. Gaelikaa,
    Sometimes, we unconsciously repeat an action and that, too, becomes a habit.

    Some of those habits are innocent enough. It’s funny what we discover when we start to pay attention.

    One of my recent discoveries…I leave a sip of coffee in my coffee cup in the morning.

    How have Pune residents taken to the shopping bag ban?

    I have a picture in my mind of your push cart vendors making their way along the streets of Pune. Have you done a post about these purveyors of goods?

    I can see why those young entrepreneurs flock to your side…you are such an encourager, Ramana. Thank you.

  4. Marianna, apparently it takes six weeks to change a habit, and twelve times tasting a particular food you dislike before it grows on you. I tested the latter, with little success, on my son when he was young.

    As I am given to being easily annoyed at all that is wrong with the world (and this will not change even in twelve weeks) I so resent the term “recyclable” shopping bag. In the ‘olden’ days people either brought their string nets, half a dozen of load carrying children, a donkey or a wheel barrow. End of story.


  5. You are incredible. You have just given me an idea for a blog! About two push cart fellows and the door delivery boy from our grocer.

    How have Punekars taken to the ban? Very badly I am afraid. It will take time, but it will have to happen. The ordinary Punekar has taken to the change. The parvenus and the chauffeur driven memsahibs are the ones who resent the change.

  6. Ursula,
    I think the trouble with assigning numbers is that we have an expectation that we “should” be able to do something in 6 weeks or after 11 times. When we don’t, some of us get discouraged or frustrated and give up.

    On the other hand, having those numbers gives us something to work towards…an end point.

    Happy to oblige!

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